There are quite a few music archives around. Alas, it seems as if the thought of how to maneuver them got a bit neglected. Since music firstly wants to get heard, and only then possibly get categorized or explained, the solution to this is easy: Make the archive speak!
In a way, the approach of Follow Music’s sonic archeology is related to that of European medieval cartographers. Their mappae mundi weren’t striving to exactly depict the world, but rather intended to broach issues they found fascinating, e.g. Bible stories, mythology, or certain knowledge. Being a DJ, my way of addressing musical phenomena is the mix.
The Mix as Interface
Besides providing sonic environments, Follow Music‘s thematic mixes, or: programs function as a sort of user interface.
In a future version of the archive, many tracks in such programs will serve as optional gateways – to get to know more about their context, artistic concepts, or related music. Users will be able to leave a mix and maneuver the archive in their own unique ways – based on context related suggestions, with no AI involved.
Contrary to the processing speed, storage capacity and user interfaces of computers, most music related AI is still in its infancy – more than 50 years after synthesizer pioneer Suzanne Ciani took a summer course at Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL) with the father of computer music Max Mathews.
Apparently, AI is not yet able to satisfactory mimic qualities like intuition, humour and personality, which are crucial for the making, understanding and presentation of interesting music.
The Core of Sonic Archeology
Since starting my digital archive at the dawn of the terabyte era in 2012, I evaluated over 200k tracks by asking the simple question whether I’d like to listen to them again. The remaining ones are organized in an abundance of playlists thus mapping many of my thoughts about music. Based on almost 40 years of listening experience, these playlists are at the core of Follow Music’s sonic archeology.
A lot of the featured tracks in the avant-garde section capture remarkable moments I came across during an extensive search for radiophonic miniatures. With the ongoing series Fundstück (relic), results of this research (which includes the complete Ubuweb sound section) are broadcasted in the cultural magazine Kompressor on Deutschlandfunk-Kultur since 2015. The episodes tell stories, take listeners on acoustic journeys, or document situations. They’re presenting works of sound art, field recordings, animal music, poetry, or something else.
NB: Follow Music’s files usually make their way into the archive as direct transfers from CD, by getting ripped from vinyl or cassette in 24bit/48KHz resolution, or as online AIFF/WAV purchases. After arranging a mix in Pro Tools, a FLAC file in CD quality is uploaded to Mixcloud.
Paul Paulun, July 2021
Better than algorithms. DJ and radio journalist Paul Paulun compiles handpicked experimental music collections. Read the article (February 2021)
Paul Paulun about sonic archeology, which sort of sound art works for the series, and the connection between such relics (Fundstücke) and the speaking archive Follow Music.
from November 2020 until April 2021, Follow Music is supported with a grant from Musikfonds e.V. – thanks!
introducing the speaking archive at Leipzig’s Seanaps Festival in October 2020 (talk with Tina Klatte and Maximilian Glass)